Reviews in this issue:
The Perotic Theatre - Dryve
When listening to Dryve by German band The Perotic Theatre, it took a long time for me
to get into the music. That's not necessarily a bad thing, thought. Now this album is from 1996,
but don't think it took me that long - we got this CD only last year. Why someone would
offer us a CD that old? Beats me. Chances are the music is no longer representative for the
band. But hey, we got the CD, so here's the review. (Well, that does not apply to all releases
- there's got to be some relevance to prog or prog-minded ears...)
TPT's music is heavily predominated by the keyboards. Alexander Wiemer is credited to play "vocals, guitar, bass", but I think that's in reverse order of importance, since I don't hear the guitar at all. It could have something to do with the mix; keyboards are way up front, then there are the drums, and further down in the mix I hear some bass. Vocals are mixes between keyboards and drums. Now I don't have anything against music where keyboards are the most important part, but you don't become an ELP or Greenslade by only leaving out the guitar! TPT don't have the bombastic power of the first, nor the mysterious melancholy of the latter.
The keyboard player, Niklas David, is good, no doubt about that. The music is progressing
slowly, and most parts are rather slow and mysterious. Don't expect simple verse and chorus
songs here. In other parts, David is getting the songs up to a nice velocity. The band are
very interested in creating weird parts, like free drumming over keyboards holding a steady
rhythm in Stone Pillow Poem, or unexepected breaks, which never show off highly
The whole album sounds like there's only drums and keyboards and a bit of bass, which is very empty. I guess this is largely due to the mixing. But it's also the songwriting. The breaks are nice, but all things in between become tedious too soon. There are very nice parts, but it's not enough.
For more information about The Perotic Theare, contact Aysen Ener, tel/fax: +49-171-5200654.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10.
Steve Jolliffe - Invitation
Steve Jolliffe is probably best known for is participation in Tangerine Dream, but he
was also involved in the line-up of a band that also included Rick Davies called The
Joint, which later evolved into Supertramp. As explained in the booklet, this
compilation CD is an invitation to Steve Jolliffe's music. I needed that, since I was unfamiliar
with it. Now let me tell you about the invitation and my introduction to Jolliffe's music.
In short, it is largely instrumental, very quiet and relaxed. It is almost like meditation music, except for a couple of songs, where he can create a more tense atmosphere - not recommended for meditation, I'd say. Some songs are sweet, others are a bit melancholic, but overall just very relaxed.
This is not my favourite kind of music, and I find it not very easy to write about it. Some
music is simply not good, and then it's quite easy to write a negative review. But that is not
the case here. Jolliffe has a lot of musical experience and knows how to create an atmosphere
with it. Although there's not a great deal of diversity within the songs, they never get
If you know what to expect, sort of, than you're in for some high quality sounds. If you don't know Jolliffe's music but my description makes you curious, then this CD is a great starting point to his rather large discography. Have a go.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10.
Artrosis - Posród kwiatów i cieni
(Among Flowers and Shadows)
Artrosis were formed in 1995 in Poland as a trio. Magdalena "Medea" Dobosz takes care of the vocals, Maciej Niedzielski plays keyboards and Chris Bialas is responsible for the guitars. The name 'Artrosis' symbolises a combination of 'art' and 'roses'. But of course it could also describe the music as an 'attack to your bones'. After a demo and two albums, Hidden Dimension and In the Name of the Night, the band (now with Marcin Pendowski on bass and Rafal Grunt on guitars) released Posrod Kwiatow i Cieni, which means 'Among Flowers and Shadows'.
As becomes clear from the above, Artrosis use a drum-computer for the rhythm-patterns.
Although it's audible there's a machine, they've used it with intelligence. It can be
done in the right way! The opening of the album, Nieprawdziwa historia consists of two
parts. Both parts feature a nice combination of heavy rocking guitars, atmospheric keyboards
and mystical female vocals. The result is a cross-over between Gothic Rock and Progressive
Metal, not unlike the Dutch band Within Temptation or the early work of The
Biala karta is a slower song, starting with a piano/string-part, followed by howling guitars and lovely harmony vocals. Heavier, faster parts are 'interrupted' by more mellow parts, before leading into the next track, an instrumental which can be described best as 'male'.., since it's described on the cover by the use of the international symbol for 'men'. The string-arrangements of this interlude lead directly into A ja. Classic heavy-metal guitars are combined with modern synth-sounds and dramatic, high vocals. Very nice indeed.
Morfeusz, which, as most other tracks, also follows from the former track, starts with a spoken part, followed by fast rhythm-guitars and threatening vocals. Whether it deals about 'the God of dreams', I don't know, but considering the title, it is likely. The finale features Marcin Pendowski on bass prominently.
The title track, Posród kwiatów i cieni, is certainly one of the best songs of the album, with its catchy verses and lovely, accessible sound. The video-clip of this song is also featured on the multi-media department of this album, which I discovered by accident, when I put it in my computer. Besides the full-length version of the beautiful video of Posród kwiatów i cieni, this department also features a discography and a gallery of pictures. Regrettably the information is only available in Polish, but the pictures and the video are a nice extra, which certainly adds to the value of this album.
A tough guitar-solo by Rafal Grunt (what's in a name?) leads to Kolejny rozdzial,
which has a great middle section with key/string-variations. 'Female' is the other
instrumental song on the album. Together with the title track, this one of the strongest songs
on the album, with great contrast and many changes, from heavy to atmospheric, from hard to
Dwie drogie starts very fast, with 'demonic' vocals. I can understand why she's called Medea as well! She has a very expressive voice, with power in low and high regions, but she knows her limitations and refrains from screaming (I hate screaming women;-D). My almost closes the album, which can easily be considered one big piece of music. After a short verse, there's an instrumental part, where vocals are used to create atmosphere without lyrics. It shows how international the language of music is. After two minutes of sudden silence, a very fragile part finishes the song. Really another highlight of the album. Altogether this song lasts almost 7-and-a-half minute, contrary to the 3:47 mentioned on the cover
After a gentle introduction, Omaniony - which is almost an encore to the album - bursts out with pure power. Catchy verses are followed by bombastic choruses with nice breaks. Solid as a rock.
All in all, Artrosis have made a very professional album, which will certainly appeal to many
(prog)metal-fans. Some songs could use a bit more variation, maybe a drummer could help to
expand some boundaries, although I didn't really miss him. Artrosis' music is tough and hard,
but Medea's vocals and Maciej Niedzielski's keyboards give the necessary melodic touch.
Besides delivering this fine music, Artrosis have taken care of the production in a great way. The cardboard sleeve and the booklet features great artwork and the extra multi-media section really adds to the joy of listening to the music. I'll add half a point for that!
Conclusion: 8- out of 10
by: Jan-Jaap de Haan.
Platypus - Ice Cylces
Platypus was formed in late 1997 on the initiative of Dream Theater bass player John Myung. He recruited Derek Sherinian, keyboard player with Dream Theater on the albums A Change of Seasons and Falling into Infinity, currently playing with his own band Planet X, who's CD was reviewed in the previous DPRP review update. Vocals and guitars were added by Ty Tabor (King's X) and finally John found a drummer in Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs). As it happens, Rod is also involved in a project with the current Dream Theater keyboard player, Jordan Rudess, in the Rudess Morgenstein Project.
In 1998 Platypus released their debut album When Pus Comes to Shove, which they described as a blend of musical influences "from straight rock through to heavier fusion incorporating everything from The Beatles to Jeff Beck with a hint of Deep Purple." Two years hence comes the release of the second album Ice Cycles.
Two DPRP editors gave it a try ....
This turned out to be a very tricky CD to review. The first time I played it, I thought:
"Well, this is an album with some good rock songs, but nothing very special." However, as I
played it more often over the last two weeks, my opinion steadily shifted to a much more
appreciative mood. To be frank, there's more to most of these songs, than I gave them credit
Ice Cycles is in fact a great fusion between these four diverse musicians, who (with the exception of Tabor) all have a secondary connection with Dream Theater. Don't expect a rehash of DT's material here though. Platypus has its own strenghts.
There are some excellent songs on this album and I found myself happily singing along with Tabor as I learned the lyrics. Best are Oh God and Gone. The first of these two is a slow, melodic song, while the second contains the most subtle instrumental parts on the album, with Tabor creating great vocal harmonies. Better Left Unsaid is a more mellow piece, while The Tower and I Need You put on show the more powerful side of this ensemble. Cry is a dramatic track with booming bass play by Myung.
The instrumental track 25 sounds rather like a crazy hyped-up theme song for some tv or radio show, while the main instrumental track, Partial to the Bean, is a real treat. The fifth part of this 'Tragic American Quintogy' instantely reminded me of Pink Floyd's On the Run. There are other parts on this album that are reminiscent of seventies bands, but it's all filtered through the Platypus approach.
Musicianship is excellent. Derek Sherinian sounds better on keyboards than on both Dream Theater CDs he's played on and thus I can't wait to sample his recent Planet X project. Ty Tabor of course plays the largest part in giving this band it's identity, with his fine handling of the guitar and his characteristic vocals. But Myung and Morgenstein provide the solid backbone and are outstanding in their own right.
I'm glad I took a bit of time to delve into this CD. I can't help to think that my assesment would have been a lot less appreciative if this had been a rush-job. Now I see no reason not to recommend this album. And I can recommend it to everyone. There's a touch of magic at work here, that you'd normally only expect from bands that have been on the road for years.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Every now and then we receive a CD at DPRP that's great to listen to multiple times. Not because it contains 15+ minute epics, not because it excels in progressiveness in the true sense of the word, not because there's a great concept story, not because it features daring arrangements or interesting choices of instruments, no none of that. It's just uncomplicated, highly enjoyable, accessible music. Platypus' new album Ice Cycles is one of those CDs.
The album contains a total of 8 songs ranging from a mere three and a half minutes to slightly less
than seven minutes, with one exception: the instrumental 7-piece Partial to the Bean.
All of the songs are very accessible and sometimes even very radio-friendly, without ever losing
the power that makes this above-average music.
Take some very warm organ patterns and put some of the greasiest guitar riffs on top of that plus powerful bass playing, solid drumming and some wonderful singing of nice melodies.
The songs range from slow quasi-ballads (Better Left Unsaid) to mid- and up-tempo rock tunes
(Oh God, The Tower, I Need You, Gone) to songs that have the slow menacing power of some of the more
recent Metallica albums (the riffs in Cry).
And then there's the two instrumental tunes. 25 is a kick-ass keyboard driven track with lots of great guitar as well. Partial to the Bean is a delicious 10 and a half minute instrumental journey through 7 parts. Some parts explore variations on the same theme, while others are different, like the psychedelic chaos of Platmosis, which in my opnion is a bit out of place and sounds too much like Pink Floyd's On The Run.
The hilarious titles of the different parts (see tracklist) and the visual joke on the cover clearly show that the band doesn't take itself too serious.
I haven't heard the band's first album, so I don't really know how this compares (according to the biography of the Inside Out label Ice Cycles has got a 'darker and heavier sound'). I'm also not really familiar with the other bands of the musicians either. One band of which Platypus reminds me is Tiles, although Platypus sounds less complicated and more straightforward. I've got the feeling the Platypus material must be great when played live.
My only negative remarks about the album are that the length is rather short (just over 46 minutes) and that I would have liked a bit more variation in styles, especially in the vocal area since most of the songs have either vocal overdubs and harmonies or modified (distorted) vocals, which is quite nice but becomes a bit of a drag after several songs. Nevertheless it's certainly an album I would recommend to people who like that cross-over nomansland between prog rock and prog metal.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
The Frigus Project - Loomed Merriment
The Frigus Project is a Dutch collective lead by Hans Uil and Sander Zoer, consistiting of no
less than nine musicians. Uil (vocals, guitars) and Zoer (drums) set up this project with some
friends to record Loomed Merriment, an album containing six studio tracks and three
Han Uil wrote practically all the music, while sharing credits for lyrics with two other writers. The music is described as a combination of classic, symphonic and progressive rock, so as you can imagine Loomed Merriment contains a wide variety of songs. There's not really a main theme to this album, but most tracks can be described as melancholy, melodic rock.
The album opens with Give Her Some Rest, a typical example of the melancholy approach the band takes, with good solos on guitar and keys. However the vocals are a bit shaky. Uil clearly has difficulty in reaching the higher notes, but he does put genuine emotion in his singing here, as he does throughout the album. And Uil manages to steer clear of these slight vocal slip-ups in most songs. The band itself has noted that the vocals might sound a bit 'sleepy' on this first track, as they were recorded at 5.30 at night.
The next song Zlata is about a Bosnian girl and the horror she's been through in the war. Uil's vocals come off far better on this slow track and he throws in a piece on mouth-organ to boot. Jomb is an instrumental track that features some funky guitar pieces, a solid bassline and some very weird sounding sequencing. A nice experimental piece.
Respect shows experiments of another kind, with vocals to be precise. This doesn't work too well, though it helps in creating a dark atmosphere. The same goes for the sixth track, Bleeding, another dark symphonic song. On this Uil plays the guitar very much in a Mark Knopfler fashion, not surprising as he lists him as a main influence for his technique. There's a bit of a mix between Knopfler and Pink Floyd here, with some far out space sounds from sequencing, and with a hint of The Doors.
The last three track are live recordings, though unfortunately there's no mention of where or
when these were taped. The second of these three tracks, Fadiejada, is instrumental,
which starts as a groovy jig on violin by Annemieke Huls, who wrote this piece. She has some
excellent solo parts, occasionally in harmony with Uil on guitar.
The violin also features on both other live tracks, 24 Hours and Hands Off, adding a nice symphonic touch. Unfortunately these two songs also feature some quite awful female backing vocals. These might have strenghtened Uil's vocal performance, which is fine live, but actually distract and annoy, as the girl's voice really is no good.
In conclusion, this is a good package of music, with several musicians showing fine artisanship, that manages to create a constant quality even though there's such a variety of people performing. I'm glad there are still people in Holland willing to experiment musically, when there are so many bands pumping out an endless stream of mediocre rock music. I can only hope The Frigus Project finds a record label and manages to reach a wider audience. These guys deserve a shot. In the meantime I encourage you to sample this CD, several tracks of which are featured on the website mentioned above.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Gordon Giltrap - Visionary
Tracklist original album (31:06): Awakening (3:01), Robes And Crowns (1:23), From The
Four Winds (3:31), Lucifer's Cage (4:08), Revelation (3:45), The Price Of Experience (2:22),
The Dance Of Albion (1:58), The Tyger (2:01), The Ecchoing Green (2:02), London (3:02),
Bonus tracks (21:58): On Wings Of Hope (3:10), Jerusalem (3:28), Visionary (Original Version) (15:20)
Tracklist original album (37:17): Quest (5:11), The Deserter (3:56), Pastoral (5:20),
Morbio Gorge (4:15), Heartsong (5:02), Reflections And Despair (3:24), Cascade (3:41), To The
High Throne (2:52), Vision (3:36)
Bonus tracks (35:29): Heartsong (Original Recording) (7:08), Quest (with Wren Orchestra) (6:54), Guitar And Piano (Demos) (21:27)
Tracklist original album (41:42): Roots (Parts One And Two) (6:11), Nightrider (5:45),
Inner Dream (5:03), Weary Eyes (4:47), Fast Approaching (5:04), Melancholy Lullaby (2:29),
Fear Of The Dark (7:57), Visitation (4:26)
Bonus tracks (12:23): Catwalk Blues (2:42), Smiler (2:52), Fear Of The Dark (Single Version) (3:34), Oh Well (Single Version) (3:15)
Gordon Giltrap was known as a singer-songwriter before he went and recorded three albums for Electric Records between 1975 and 1978. Although Voiceprint re-issued I think almost all of his discography, it is my pleasure to review these first three albums for you, on which Giltrap portrays his talents as a composer of more complex and orchestral music than his work on previous albums.
The band is the same on all these three albums: Gordon Giltrap on all sorts of guitars, Rod Edwards on keyboards, John G. Perry on bass, and the Simon Phillips on drums, but I believe Phillips was replaced by Ian Moseley after the Fear Of The Dark album. The music, all instrumental save a few "aaah"s and "nanana"s and a few lines here and there, was all written by Giltrap, with string and bass arrangements by Rod Edwards and Roger Hand, both part of the production team for these albums, while the latter also guested on guitar and percussion both on the studio albums as well on stage.
The albums are largely acoustic, but as a composer, Giltrap succeeded in creating diverse albums, with songs from sweet tunes to melancholic songs, and from delicate pieces to fully orchestrated walls of sound. The production of all the albums is great, if not a bit too clean. But maybe this is the only way to produce this kind of music, ie. delicate and well-crafted, based on classical textures. It reminds me of Barclay James Harvest and maybe The Moody Blues in some orchestral pieces, but it should be noted that Giltrap is more interested in painting a musical pictures than in writing pop songs simply backed up with an orchestra. And it's a very diverse painting. Although largely instrumental, the albums never get boring for one moment. It's sometimes hard to keep instrumental music interesting all the way through, but Giltrap has no difficulties with that.
On Perilous Journey, there's a bigger difference between the quiet, acoustic guitar pieces and the orchestra bits than on Visionary. The songs are also more melodic, but the final result sounds like it's less spontaneous than on its predecessor. It's as if Giltrap is feeling very happy with his new musical direction and is making more of an effort to write and record the album. I very much like, and prefer, spontaneous outbursts of creativity, even when it is naive at times.
Fear Of The Dark, however, sounds more mature and experienced, which has a very positive effect on the results. It's just like it's back to how it was before, but with more experience. The orchestrations and acoustic guitar are now able to play together. Even the quiet pieces have a fuller sound, are less delicate, and more powerful. It's like the album takes more time to build towards climaxes; it progresses slowly, but steadily. The result is a stronger album, to my taste.
The original albums were not long, and Visionary was very short with its thrity-one minutes. Fortunately, they all contain bonus tracks, and especially the first two are very interesting in showing early versions of the music on these albums. That's what bonus tracks are for!
Listening to the three albums in a row might prove a bit too much. If you're a Giltrap fan, you probably will have these albums already. If you're not, I strongly adivse you to check out Fear Of The Dark.
Conclusion Visionary: 7 out of 10.
Conclusion Perilous Journey: 6.5 out of 10.
Conclusion Fear Of The Dark: 7.5 out of 10.
Xang - Destiny Of A Dream
A few years ago, when I was a reviewer for Background Magazine, I had the pleasure to hear a demo tape titled Destin D'Un Rêve by a young French band called Xang. The tape contained three instrumental tracks, which made a great impression on me.
Later, I came in contact with drummer Manu, who kept me informed on the band's progress in finding a record label. Galileo Records are a new label who are specializing in progressive rock, and Xang's debut CD is also the first on this new label. And what a CD to start your catalogue with! The three tracks I knew from the tape (they were titled Gaïa, Guernica, and La Lumière) are included on this CD ("la lumière" means "the light"), but of course, there is a lot more.
Xang's music is still instrumental. The musical ingredients of the demo tape that impressed
me, are still here. The music is very, very melodic, and it progresses slowly. It manages to
create a tense and dense atmosphere, slowly. Yes, the feeling that I get when listening to
this record is being in a room with walls of only sound... It takes you on its one-hour
powerful trip, tucking you in a blanket of sound.
Of course, the breaks, odd time signatures and unexpected time changes are present, but not in excess. The music takes its time to evolve and lets the listener grow with the music from climax to climax. Keyboard and guitar solos are alternating, but the band know how to create music as a unit instead of being a showcase for the melodic instrumentalists. The drums and bass, both present in the mix very nicely, are a solid base for the whole songs. During guitar solos, the keyboards provide several layers of soil to build on; during keyboard solos the guitar is rocking great riffs.
I sometimes hear a twinch of Yes in the melodies, but that doesn't stay for very long,
since the music changes soon enough to take you further. It ranges from quiet piano parts to
bombastic and powerful interplay between keyboards and guitar; this contrast is portrayed most
notably in The Prediction.
It's great to see (hear, I mean...) a record that grabs your attention in the beginning of the very first song, and manages to hold it throughout the record. There are not a lot of CDs that can do that, and I also have a hard time comparing their music to other bands. In the heavy pieces, the bombast and power remind me of Mastermind, but Xang tend to emphasize on the keyboards more than the guitar. During the quieter bits, some keyboard lines are reminiscent of Genesis. And the very enjoyable ending of Bitterness has a bit of a Riders On The Storm feeling. But there's never a moment you can say "hey, this sounds just like ...".
I would love to see this band play live. The energy and power this band has must be totally amazing and devastating to experience with the band in front of you... If you are looking for something new and energetic in the progressive music scene, get this CD right away!
Conclusion: 9 out of 10.